So in the spirit of financial independence, I'll be sharing my expenses every month. Hopefully, this will help anyone budgeting for studying abroad as well! All numbers are in NZD.
Not moving into the international student accommodation provided by the university has been a great decision. I'm paying $120pw including bills compared to around $200pw! There is a power meter associated with my room so I only pay for the electricity I use.
Definitely one of my biggest expenses. I have some room for improvement although this already includes saving techniques like buying in bulk and finding some great deals like 10 kg of potatoes for $2.20! However, I was experimenting a lot on health foods like Goji berries as they aren't (readily) available in the UK.
New Zealand has wonderful produce sections in all its supermarkets but just like anywhere in the world the price can be a lot cheaper if you know where to look. Since I've only just moved here, for the majority of the month I didn't realise I was living 2 minutes away from an amazing Asian market with prices below half of what I was getting in the supermarkets! On top of that I have joined a local co-op and thus will have access to whole-trade prices. Since the vast majority of these costs are from produce I expect costs to go down next month.
- $10 for a bus card and a $20 top-up.
- $45 for a weekend road trip covering hire car costs and fuel.
- $30 Entry to the Student club, food and drinks etc.
Phone: $40: This one doesn't really deserve its own section, but I know it's something people might be interested in. I paid something like £30 for a pay as you go SIM with international calls, data etc. when I was in Sydney to get me off the ground. I barely used any of those texts and none of the data. This month all I had to do was top up $40 and was charged $20 to continue using the SIM. I expect this expense to only appear a few times over the year. This doesn't include the contract I've got for back in England.
Blender: $24: This was kind of an impulse buy but with all the produce available here and the experimenting I'm doing on my diet, I figured it was worth a try. I bought it fully expecting it to be temporary (a test) but it's amazing. Luckily it's the kind of size that I might be able to take home with me. If not $24 is a pretty good price for a second-hand, like-new blender.
University Clubs: $20: Snow-Sports and Meditation/Buddhist
Second-hand sleeping bag: $99: I was hoping to avoid this purchase as I bought a new one just before I left but It got freezing cold at night and I was losing sleep. I was spending a lot of money using the electric heater. I'm betting this will end up being a money saver. Plus I'll be able to mitigate the cost by selling my old one.
Second-hand Bike: $270: Plus lights, helmet and lock. This is more than I was expecting. Perhaps if I was more patient I could have found a better deal but I don't regret getting it as I would have already been late for many lectures without it. Plus I get to explore more of Christchurch!
Approximately $1400 isn't too bad considering I'm still adjusting to a different location and this month includes a lot of "set-up" expenses. I expect next month will reflect a more standard monthly cost. If anyone has ideas on where I can save feel free to share!
This is split between $600 for rent and $76(!!!) for electricity. Rent is still $120 per week, there just happened to be more Mondays this month! The electricity bill came as a surprise. Considering I am supposed to be paying only for my rooms usage and the rest is covered in the $120. I don't think I'm getting tricked or conned, I can see my rooms power-meter. The numbers make sense, I just didn't realise how quickly $0.26/kWh added up! Needless to say, the crappy heater I was using doesn't get much action anymore. I expect next months cost to be around $10. The thicker sleeping bag I invested in is already paying for itself.
Great! Saved almost $100 compared to last month. This could go even lower if I hunted around for reduced foods so I've got that for improvement. As I expected, now that I have found the cheapest source for my staples my grocery bill has plummeted. The co-op that I mentioned in my last post was good but didn't meet my expectations so I haven't even been using that. Having said all that doing Durianrider's 1 Week Refined Sugar Challenge has opened my eyes to the effect diet has on our mood. As such my priorities have shifted and I no longer mind investing a bit more here to experiment with energy levels/lifestyle.
Annoyingly I had to spend $112 repairing my bike this month, well I say had... if I were less impatient I probably could have put the time in to learn how to fix it myself. Sadly that didn't even register as an option at the time and luckily I learnt that the bike is fairly vintage/original making it worth more than expected! Hopefully, this will cover some of the costs when I sell it at the end of the year. The other $175 was used snowboarding for a weekend, this includes food and accommodation, seems to me this was a great deal and since the place was quiet I even got a one-on-one lesson!
Still working on selling my old sleeping bag so setting up accounts on tradme.co.nz and other websites cost me a bit!
I'm glad to see monthly costs already going down, I can't imagine things getting much cheaper than this so aiming for around $1200 might be a good number! If anyone wants to share their money-saving tips or to clarify anything feel free to ask in the comments!
Woo! My power bill went down from $76 to $14. I'm really happy about that. Although the weather here is heating up there were certainly still some struggles with me keeping the heater off. I'm proud I pulled through. That's going to be fairly significant over the course of the year!
MMMM Yeah that feels good. I thought writing these posts would be a chore but seeing this kind of improvement is exciting. I "challenged" myself this month to only buy reduced food (food that is close to its sell-by date) plus a few staples. I'm happy how this turned out because I learnt a lot about what to expect from the local supermarkets and that actually this really isn't that hard. Yes, I was spending more time having to regularly 'scan' for cheap food but I got a system going and it wasn't so bad. The nice benefit to this is you get to try some interesting veggies you might usually shy away from!
I'm actually kind of annoyed I managed to save so much because now it makes it harder to argue that Soylent and it's benefits are worth it! Only time will tell.
I must say I almost feel embarrassed about this one. I'm in New Zealand why aren't I going out and spending money exploring?! Anyhow, I've been keeping myself busy around town and on campus! The $12.50 was spent at and entering the local vegetarian/vegan expo.
Despite the relatively low number, this section contains my greatest "defeat" of the month. How does one rewards themselves for hard work when that hard work is saving money? Anyway after a stressful week involving presentations and assignments and some long term craving I caved and bought Elder Scrolls Online... Gold Edition $72. God damn, that's the saving on power completely gone. Oh well, it was nice escapism and since it's an MMO I guess I really have no need to be wasting any more money on video games. Looking back I can I wasn't of the mind to be making good decisions. I didn't even go for the cheap copy! Rationalising about meeting people to practice my Korean on was a long shot.
Anyway, I did manage to make $24 selling my old sleeping bag. More valuable than that I got some confidence selling things online and using a courier service.
I did say I had been keeping myself busy. $20 can be attributed to Capoeira classes. Great fun but I do wonder why the hobby stands in the long term with respect to longevity and health.
And last but not least I had to spend $20 on getting my house key replaced. Derp.
Considering I was at $1400 just two months ago I'm surprised I was able to reduce my spending since I already considered myself "frugal". Adapting this quickly in a foreign country feels good, This month has been very educational, especially with regards to what I can do for free locally and how little I can spend on food and still get a satisfying diet. The fact that I'd be under $700 if I didn't buy that damn video game is a good sign.
I thought I'd put this into some context, New Zealand's average WEEKLY income is $977 for single households[^n]. At this rate, I could work for one year and quit for four! FOUR YEARS! Why aren't people doing this?!
I've been looking at options to reduce rent. But at $120 per week and so close to campus it's proving hard to beat. At $1.40 for electricity usage in my room, I've basically eliminated that cost which is good. Hopefully, I'll have good news to share next year about bringing rent down...
The Sipreme experiment cost me $824. Technically this is enough for two-months but because I was eating only Sipreme I needed more to fit in the calories. Now that I'm not holding myself to that I could easily buy less and make the difference through other meals like eating fruit etc. I think I'll make a post about determining if powdered food is worth the (potential) costs. The other costs are from when I ran out in week 3. This is still hugely in the air if I will continue this, especially when seeing how much it is going to cost me. It basically comes down to how much I value my time which is a difficult decision amongst the conflicting mess of desiring financial independence before I start a family and making the most of studying abroad.
A book about cycle touring New Zealand and a Topo50 app of New Zealand.
So with the failure of my laptop, I'm looking to make a profit. I've spent $6.50 sending it to get repaired (bubble wrap and postage etc.) under warranty by Microsoft. $350 on a Samsung Note 4 (bargain) and $22.50 on a (failed) experiment with a wireless keyboard. However, I'll be able to sell my old phone and the repaired surface which should put me well into the positive.
Woah what happened Graeme?! Big numbers are scary but these are expenses as they come. Not a budget, not a monthly average. I bought a months supply of food at the start of October and another near the end so it all goes into this months numbers. No need to worry... much. The laptop experiment costs are now but the benefits in selling it will be seen in a month that will likely be in the negative!
Bike Tour Costs
Related: Travel Blog - New Zealand Cycle Tour
The Bike: $2159
Trading in my old bike for $200 I got a good deal on a brand new cyclocross bike for $1499. With disk breaks a comfortable handlebar and a steel frame, I had a sturdy base to start with.
The most expensive addition to the bike by far was the Ortlieb panniers (two on the back) at $299 however with their reputation and warranty this was worth the investment.
Along with some thicker tyres, a rack, bottle cage, tools, spare inner tubes (2) and a water bladder (with bag), this all came to $646.
It was recommended at one point to buy pedals and/or cycling shoes (clips or otherwise). I didn't take this advice as cycling shoes are probably hard to re-sell. I was fine even in minimalist sandals and boots.
Knowing very little about maintaining a bike I left town without any oil etc. it was only after a fellow cycle tourer offered to take a look at the bike when I complained about some gear/tensioning issues (about 12 days in) that the chain for some care for free. I got the gears looked at professionally, apparently, it was an easy job because I was only charged $14 including a puncture repair kit.
Living expenses: $404.50
Over the course of 22 days of travelling, I spent $160 on food. And if I made a rough estimate that was probably over 4000cals a day! Pretty good if you ask me. This includes spending $38 at a restaurant and one time when I splurged $9 on some fresh cherries. My diet consisted of peanut butter wraps (later sandwiches) and sugar. I'm sure if someone was to eat throughout the day this would not be a comfortable diet. However, following the warrior diet/one meal a day I was able to feel energised and light throughout the day and got to stuff my face in the evening. Eating in this way kept digestion relatively good.
Finding free campgrounds and the occasional stealth camp kept this fairly low at $244.50 this could be even lower if you're the confident type to ask if you can stay on private land etc. but having a hammock makes that quite difficult. I think I would have been much more adventurous with my camping spots and how far I would cycle every day if I had opted for a bivvy.
Other Expenses: $330
Massage and hot springs $175 - clearly not a financial independence motivated decision but definitely helped me figure things out!
Travel $120 - A shuttle bus to avoid a busy highway section and a scenic train journey.
Extra supplies $13 - Including a cheap poncho (not really necessary as it turns out the Arc'teryx jacket did just as well with the added bonus of warmth). Some tape for quick repairs and foam insulation (definitely need some insulation when using a hammock!).
Wi-Fi $22 - Some paywalls to finish uploading blog posts (after using up hotspots etc.) plus getting data on my phone.
Big numbers like that can get scary but when $2159 is locked up in a great bike with a high resale value I can rest easy.
I'm more interested in my living expenses as a FI/RE'ee: $404.50. I always knew that camping could be a great way decrease costs but with the (albeit nutrient devoid) diet expenses were ridiculously low and the weird thing is I actually felt pretty good on it (I'm still craving peanut butter)! It proves to me that it isn't necessary to have a kitchen which opens up other accommodation options as well.
Although a huge experience in health and fitness, my experiment with a raw vegan diet isn't exactly aligned with financial independence. Especially considering I know I can spend under $200 on food. Maybe I'll have to wait until I have a garden of my own to give this another try.
Despite the large amount spent on food this month I made up for it by trying my hand at WWOOFing. Not only that but the place is in Christchurch so I can stay here at the low cost of $70 per week! That means a 40-minute bike commute but I was training for an hour on my bike in the past anyway so it should be fine.
I'd love to find some data on how much others in my peer group are spending for comparison as sometimes I feel like I'm worrying too much about my expenses. I literally only spent money on food & rent this month and yet I'm still looking for ways to reduce spending.
It'll be interesting living in this permaculture space. Living off the land is an interesting method to reach financial independence. Not only that but tiny houses are being built here so I will gain insight into that style of living.
A confusing month switching in and out of raw veganism and using the remaining supply of Sipreme. It's certainly possible to continue with raw veganism but now that I'm back at school it has become very time-consuming. Not to mention expensive! Despite all these cons I'm still drawn towards raw veganism. It's the best I've ever felt. I've promised myself I'll give it another try when I actually have a steady income.
Going back to a cheap diet doesn't feel great but it does take the pressure off of thinking about money so much.
$70 per week! Automatically saving $50 per week compared to last semester feels good. Plus I'm enjoying the bike commuting so far, we'll see what I say about that when it starts to get rainy and cold. Living in a social community has other benefits too, living with a mountain biking guide I avoided a ~$200 bike repair!
Second-hand clothes: $65.50 - After being covered in holes from the bike tour and sun damaged I decided it was probably time for a new t-shirt. Making use of the abundance of used merino clothing here in NZ I pre-emptively bought a second as well. For almost daily wear the anatomica v-neck lasted almost a year. Impressive!
Antihistamine: $16.11 - hay fever sucks.
Caffeine pills: $18.90 - long commutes mean early mornings so I thought I'd experiment with habit forming (caffeine for waking up early) and also after the bike tour I realise how amazing it is for exercise so figured I'd benefit from my morning commute even more.
Escape Artist: $22 - An awesome group activity that involves getting locked in a room and solving puzzles under a time limit to find a way out. This was a great experience and I recommend it to anyone who has something similar in their area.
All in all, not a bad month. Here's to hoping for no surprise costs in March, I'm on track for my cheapest month so far.
The experience in this community has been amazing. Learning communication and labour/gardening skills have been invaluable.
I'm surprised by how little I've spent this month considering half of the time I was doing vegan keto - it seems a benefit I hadn't realised was how (relatively) economic it is.
Haircut $70 - Just went to the nearest barbers and got shocked by this price tag - should take my own advice and cut it myself!
Travel $37 - starting to get foul weather and dark mornings here so started using the bus. It's the easy option though so I need to remember my FI goals and keep on cycling! Plus I gave some change to a friend for the bus.
Book $44.38 - Conversion rates make this sound ridiculous but the CTFU! e-book from Durianrider was well worth it (good reference book for exercise/health - comment if you are interested in a review).
or 50hrs@minimum wage
A 50-hour work month sounds pretty good to me.
A surprisingly good month despite some extra costs. When a week's rent is only $70 I start to think how every $10 I spend is a days rent - this is great for putting things into context.
The start of my mega cheap diet experiment. I purchased only basic sources of macro-nutrients and lived off the land for the rest. Definitely growing my own garden one day! This was split by eating normally during the road-trip.
Road Trip and Australia: $1365.65
Shared Expenses: ~$875 - including flight, car hire, food, and accommodation.
Return Flight: $460.05 - A regrettable case of laziness lead to me purchasing tickets the day before I left. A good lesson in the importance of forward planning!
Phone Top-up: $30
Costs this month are fairly uncertain due to extensive travelling. This is calculated post hoc.
Still can't get over how lucky I am finding this place.
Yeah, this was a pretty crazy diet experiment. After a few preliminary tests in April, I decided to go VERY basic in what I eat. I did have maybe 2kg of lentils from previous months as well.
- Bus: $24 could have been less but illness and lethargy pushed me to take the easy path.
- Nights Out: $50 Food, pool, movies that kind of stuff.
- Vegan breakfasts: $30 Trying some recipes with flatmates.
- Altra Lone-Peak 3.0 Shoes: $250 Highly rated by people in r/ultralight for hiking. I like the zero drop and a wide toe-box. Should make some money back selling my old boots.
- Phone Top-up: $20
or 48hrs@minimum wage
This is amazing. To cover costs including an abnormally expensive pair of shoes I'd only have to work approximately 12 hours a week! Also, the average income for my demographic in New Zealand (as of 2016) is $772. If it wasn't for those shoes I'd be at $505.95... I'd actually be able to save money every month by working for only a week. That's actually kind of scary. Remind me why I'm bothering to get a degree?